Beats Antique: Land of a Thousand Faces
You guys recently used Kickstarter to raise good bit of money for this new live show. What made you turn to Kickstarter for that?
Tommy: We wanted a way to tell our story. That was one of the big thing. Kickstarter allows you to tell a story and allows you to reach out and get people’s support through inspiring them. That was a good way of us to get the story out there and our ideas for exactly how we were going to portray it. It was also a great way to promote the shows we were going for.
David: Yeah and the production is really expensive. (Laughs)
Tommy: We wanted to pay the artists, the videographers, set builders and make sure they all got paid and we get into the red. It’s a beautiful, new DIY model for artists to produce. We are fully independent. We’ve been producing our own albums, building our own buses. We don’t really have support from a label really. We are just really honored our fans did it and it all came together.
Besides Les, you have a few other guests on the album. Can you talk a little about them?
Tommy: The first guest that appears on the album is Alam Khan, who is the son of Indian classical musician, Ali Akbar Khan, who has the school here in the Bay Area. That was a really cool way that it come about. We had a meeting one night, three of us, about who we wanted to collaborate with on the album. His name was pretty high up on the list. The next day I had a message from on my Facebook before we had even called him that saying how much he’d love to collaborate with us.
We were just kinda like, ‘what, really?’ We were actually going to call you today, try to find your contact and try to get in touch with you. That was already solidified. We went to see him at a performance and he came down to our studio and we did a bunch of sessions. We got three-four sessions with him. To give you context, his grandfather was the guy who taught Ravi Shankar. He comes from the highest, forms of musicians from India. He’s kept that tradition alive and we’re honored to help support that music and keep it alive for a younger generation.
Tommy: And the mentor track is called “You the Starry Eyed.” The lyrics are written by Lynx. We decided to put her together with a singer Morgan Thorne, who has a band named ‘Sorne, who is amazing vocalist as well. The two of them together create an…
David: Androgynous mentor.
Tommy: Yeah, like a two headed mentor. Obviously Les Claypool. Who else did we collaborate with?
David: Micah and Leighton from the Yard Dogs, Tommy and Zoe’s old band. They did this really great game show, they are just really great comedic and charismatic emcees. They are these hosts on this interactive game show that we’re super excited about. We have this moment where we have the game show and we bring someone up from this stage and they interact with these characters and the video. It’s a 70s game show that goes haywire.
Tommy: It’s sort of just a tip of the hat to The Yard Dogs. That was such a huge inspiration in my life. I was in that band for close to nine years. The video we ended up doing we used Yard Dogs banners and some lights. Obviously Micah and Leighton are from there. It ended up being a quick nod to some our family which was awesome.
David: It was cool, we both got to do this on the album. It’s not coming out until the second album, but they got to pay respects to the Yard Dogs and I used to be in a Afro-beat band. I probably shouldn’t say this, it’s top secret for the next album, we have the Antibalas horn section on the second album. Yeah, I used to be in an Afro-beat band so we got Antibalas.
We have this Sufi vocalist musician from Egypt that’s on the album that we sampled. It’s a really cool story because we played the Pyramids in Giza for the Solstice last year. We recorded this song with a Sufi musician in Egypt and we used the live recording from that song for the album.
Tommy: While we were on stage we were actually looking at the pyramids lit up, and it was just amazing with these guys sitting in with us—that just blew our minds. It was a moment in life that will never be forgotten. We got to capture that for the album which is really exciting. I’m glad we got it on there. So that’s definitely a special guest, the Sufi musician, Sayyid.
You guys have performed at all sorts of settings. The pyramids, Burning Man, Occupy Wall Street, you played at the Boiler Room at our office. What’s it like performing in these types of settings? How do you tackle things at Burning Man as opposed to a club in some city?
Tommy: Burning Man is deep in our personal lives as artists and adventurers. The best way to do that is to bring an old computer and do a DJ set because it’s so chaotic and then you can go around and jump on different stages and play a bunch of shows and new music for people. We just got back from there a few weeks ago. It was extremely fun. It was really cool to hear these new songs on a sound system. And be like, “hey you’ve never heard this, it’s hot off the presses.”
David: That’s sort of been a tradition. We’ve all been going to Burning Man for so many years. It comes around the time when we’re finishing our music so we usually go out there and play those tracks we’ve been working so hard on producing for their first time. We have a lot of old school, hardcore fans that go out there. It’s a fun party, sort of record listening part for us. I think we played every song on the new album.
I’ve notice that your shows usually utilize a combination of live instrumentation and pre programmed beats. How, exactly, do you guys pull it off live?
David: We have a set of triggers playing our productions and then we take out the parts. Tommy will take out his drum parts and other parts that he’ll play live, and I’ll take out some melodic parts and we play those parts, leaving room for some improvisational moments to feel it out as a live band.
It’s funny. We’ve all been parts of large bands for years, so really like this big sound. We know it’s hard to travel with 10 musicians on the road. We’ve found our way to put three people on the road with an orchestra or a 10 piece. Something different on this show is that we’ve had the opportunity to record a 50 piece live orchestra and we did about two weeks ago or a month ago. We have full new live orchestration for some of the songs. We are really excited about that. We are literally playing along to brand new orchestrations of our music.
That’s sort of a new element to how we produce and what we’re playing with. We get to play with an orchestra.
Tommy: It’s funny because it started as a recording project only. We never envisioned playing this stuff live. It was like having a bunch of different instruments, musicians all of our friends come in to record parts we’ve written. There is a vast amount of awesome, eclectic musicians here in the Bay Area that are friends are in. You could never put a band like that together because everyone is doing their own thing. We did that and then we got on the DJ tip. And we were like let’s DJ. After doing that for a year we decided to add the live drums because David was already playing some of the instruments live when we were DJing. And then I was like, “ok, I need to play drums.” And adding that in to the dance performance, it just made sense to keep going and see where it led.
We kinda got used to having all these instruments and all these things that are on our recordings that we couldn’t do live. We had to figure it out how to do it. It’s been a journey for us, wrapping our heads around it. It’s been a new way to approach live performance, as we’re predominately live musicians, moving into this electronic world, collaborating with the electronic world and live world. It’s been pretty fun.
Do you guys have any final thoughts before we wrap up?
David: This last week we’ve been able to see our content on our production from the stage that we had built from Kickstarter. It looks absolutely amazing. It looks so cool. It blew our minds. We are really, really excited. It’s taking our show to a whole other level. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do but we’ve never had the opportunity, time or money. We get to do it now. We are super inspired and want people to join us in that.
Tommy: We want to thank Les for being the devil on our new album and much respect to Mr. Les Claypool and all his work.